Waylaid Dialectic

June 1, 2010

The previous post summarised in 1,985 fewer words

Filed under: Governance — terence @ 5:34 pm
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Where trust is low, life is one big long collective action dilemma.

(previous post)

Making Development Work? Making Democracy Work [review]

Filed under: Governance — terence @ 5:02 pm
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oh boy, more thesis blogging…

In the 1970s Italy was home to a political experiment on a grand scale: decentralisation. For the first time since unification, real power – both to make rules and provide services – was devolved from Rome to regional governments. Their budgets went up dramatically as did their (potential) influence on the lives of Italians. For the people of Italy, decentralisation was the realisation of a long-frustrated impulse, present across the country, for greater regional autonomy. For a political scientist decentralisation was a natural experiment just begging to be studied.

Robert Putnam was that political scientist. And over the space of two decades, working with a series of Italian colleagues (particularly Robert Leonardi and Raggaella Nanetti) Putnam undertook an in-depth study of the impact of the changes on regional politics. The end result of this was the book Making Democracy Work (MDW).

In the early sections of MDW Putnam plots some reasonably significant changes in regional politics which appear at least partially attributable to the decentralisation. Regional politics became less partisan and more consensual (although this is at least partially a product of the gradual weakening of radical left-wing ideas over the same time-frame). Political actors also became more pragmatic. The regional political sphere grew at the expense of the local and the national.

These are all significant changes, but the real story, the one that propels Putnam’s intellectual odyssey, isn’t so much what changed as what didn’t.

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